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Steve Novotney Says, "Part 2 - Hopes for 2017"

Just as my initial listing of hopes within Part 1 of this mini-series, Part 2 includes a few possibilities that are very much in reach if attempted.

That's because, far too often, people compose unrealistic wish lists because of lofty dreams instead accepting the stark realities, but when efforts are made to make true improvements happen, the quality of life increases for everyone who resides in the Upper Ohio Valley.

Playgrounds and Parks

A new position was added by Mayor Glenn Elliott and Wheeling Council members, and Jesse Mestrovic was hired and began his work this week. The goals include formulating a plan for improvements for most of the city-owned properties and to figure out which sites are still necessary today; to search for and find grants and community partnerships to add more funds than the city's budget contains for such projects; and to work with residents in the neighborhoods where the playgrounds are located to collect ideas for equipment and reuse ideas for tennis court areas.

Most likely it will involve a "one-at-a-time" approach, and with each completion city officials will learn whether or not the facilities will be utilized again like they were when fresh more than a decade or two ago, or if social trust issues will hamper the amount of playtime because parents feel they need to be present to provide protection.

No matter what, though, the playground projects will spruce-up properties that now are eyesores scattered throughout our neighborhoods, and that can only be a positive for future property values.

Resurrected Riverfront

Heritage Port is a park, too, in the city of Wheeling, and not since it was completed in 2001 has it been renovated.

And it needs it.

Sidewalk cracks, damaged docks, separating walls, and vandalized signage are what people see these days when attending one or more of the popular festivals staged at the property, and the time has arrived for the folks in City Hall to work with employees of the Wheeling Heritage organization to formulate a plan to upgrade what has proven to be a destination location in the downtown district. Granted, frequently during the winter months a portion of the park is beneath the surface of the Ohio River, but someone had to know that when the port was in the design process. The National Weather Service readily provided such information, and so does the U.S. Coast Guard.

So, before the complaints compound and the economic impact supplied to the city by the annual festival season is realized, my hope is that some repair work is completed before the flow of folks begins in June.

Horse and Buggy

A bus did travel over it, and it stayed standing.

True.

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge was designed, constructed, and then reconstructed before the motor vehicle was invented.

True.

There exists a weight limit, a height limit, and a 50-foot interval rule for those traveling over the span.

True. True. And True.

Hundreds each day, including that Greyhound Bus driver in March 2016, ignore those rules.

True, unfortunately.

The audience tackling the options includes federal, state, and local officials and thus far a decision has not been made as far as figuring how to best preserve and protect the national monument that is the Wheeling Suspension Bridge. Since it was the first bridge to span the Ohio River, it served as that "Gateway to the West" for those dreaming of prosperity beyond Wheeling, and in 1975 it was designated as a National Historic Landmark.

So it's sort of a big deal, but most of the cars, vans, and trucks built today exceed the span's 4,000-pound limit before anyone sits inside, and convenience wins over caution time and again.

But the first round of talks failed to develop the protection plan that satisfies all at the table, so it is my hope these folks pick up the pace, compromise when necessary, and finish the job at hand sooner than later. These people should be motivated enough to accomplish what they are expected to achieve and not just because of one frustrated, ignorant bus driver but because of the numerous times when the span has been closed during the past few years because of snapped cables, accidents, and for inspections.

It all seems very A-B-C, 1-2-3 to me, and I want to witness the decision makers allowing the continuation of welcoming vehicles below the weight and height limits because of the importance of access to Wheeling Island residents. The span is an iconic piece of Wheeling's history, but it will remain functional for many years as long as it is properly protected.

Categories: Commentary